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Mount Pleasant Town Clock tower is OK

| Thursday, Sept. 16, 2004

MOUNT PLEASANT -- While Mount Pleasant Borough's engineer and council members say the tower of The Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church on Main Street, which houses the Town Clock, is in definite disrepair, the Rev. Richard Hartman disagrees.

Hartman contends that although there is a noticeable crack in the mortar joint of one or two arches, there are no loose bricks and there is no movement. He added that the crack in the mortar joint is solely in the layer of brick closest to the interior, but there are two or three layers of brick that make up the tower.

"There is some grouting that needs to be done with some of the brick and the borough engineer asked that the outside be sealed (or waterproofed), but as far as the tower is concerned, it's very stable and there are no major problems," said Hartman.

"This is just an ordeal that shouldn't be," he added.

Engineer Jeff Stepanick, who was directed by council to inspect the tower to see if the arches above the faces of the town clock would fail if they were removed, reported to council in August that there is already a crack at the top of each arch, which is a sign that the arches are already failing.

The supposed deterioration was originally noticed in early July when borough and church representatives met with Bob Rogers from Harrisburg to see if the clock could be repaired instead of needing completely replaced.

According to Peggy Mullen, council president, Rogers said that the faces and hands needed replaced, but the mechanism itself had nothing wrong with it, and the gearing was like brand new.

As a result of that tour, they noticed that there was mortar missing between the bricks in the upper tower, and that the possibility of taking out the clock faces would be a problem.

According to Stepanick, if the borough had the clock faces taken out to be repaired or replaced, the arches wouldn't necessarily crumble right away, but in time they could fail.

Hartman said that Stepanick suggested that keystones be placed above the clock faces on the inside layer of the tower and that a metal band be put around each clock face opening to keep them from cracking when the building shifts.

"When I asked the borough engineer about that, he said those were just suggestions," said Hartman. "We'll look into the suggestions and the cost factors that go with them. But as far as things falling apart in the tower, there's no indication of that. It's very stable."

Stepanick did report that his inspection did not show any bulging bricks on the outside of the tower.

The borough was in the process of entering into a lease with The Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church, which would make the borough responsible for the maintenance of the clock and the church responsible for the tower, when the problem was noticed.

According to Hartman, back in 1921 when the clock was moved from the original church to the current church, it seems as if there was a handshake agreement that the borough would maintain the clock.

Presently, the borough's solicitor made a suggestion that the borough should lease the tower, said Hartman. "We didn't see a need for it, but since the solicitor suggested it, we said OK."

The lease would be in the amount of $1 a year. However, the lease has still not been signed.

Hartman said there were some insurance issues, but added that the church's insurance would cover the clock if something happened to the tower.

The inspection by Rogers was the first interest shown by the borough to refurbish the clock. A bid of $21,000 by the Verdin Co. was made to replace the clock, but in the bid the company required half of the payment when the order is placed and the balance when the clock is delivered. Another stipulation was that the borough would pay the freight costs and all the electrical costs, which is not feasible.

The borough is currently soliciting donations to replace or refurbish the town clock so that residents can enjoy it once again.

According to Hartman, the clock has not been working since the motor went out over a year ago.

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